Monday, December 12, 2011

Patti will still get, but won’t be rich off of, husband Rod’s federal pension

I must admit to not realizing it at first, but I am kind of surprised that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich did not get hit with all kinds of fines and other financial penalties as part of his punishment for his acts of government corruption.

BLAGOJEVICH: At least he was an honest Congressman

Perhaps it was a realization that the family Blagojevich is financially busted as a result of Milorod’s legal ordeal. Or perhaps U.S. District Judge James Zagel was more focused on imposing a lengthy prison term.

BUT IT USUALLY turns out in these kinds of criminal cases that the convicted person winds up getting hit with significant fines that everyone realizes will never be paid in full.

But their intent is to keep the defendant in debt even after a prison term is served. It keeps them in an untenable financial position so that they’re never able to rebuild and perhaps engage in their old habits once again.

In the case of Blagojevich, his fines and penalties come to just over $22,000 – a fact that got ignored in most of the news coverage of his sentencing last week.

Which strikes me as kind of odd, particularly with the activity that has occurred since then with regards to the Blagojevich pensions.

FOR THE ILLINOIS attorney general’s office (led by the same Lisa Madigan that Blagojevich once allegedly considered for the U.S. Senate seat that caused all this legal trouble to begin with) issued its legal opinion that ensured he’s not about to get a pension for his state government service.

His four years as a state legislator from the Northwest Side and his six years as Illinois governor would have been worth just under $65,000 per year upon his 55th birthday – which, by coincidence, was on Saturday.

He will be refunded the nearly $130,000 that was withheld from his government salaries throughout the years as contribution toward his pension, although my guess is that the government will find a way of seizing at least part of that figure to ensure that his fines get paid.

But had the fines been larger, it could have been possible for the government to seize the rest of his pension.

FOR HE WAS a member of Congress for six years, which means that he is also entitled to a pension from the federal government upon his 62nd birthday. Because to the best of anyone’s knowledge, he never did anything that could be considered criminal while serving in the House of Representatives.

Although I can already hear the wiseacres in my mind arguing he didn’t do much of anything, period, during his time serving in Congress.

Admittedly, that one is only going to be about $15,000 per year. But it won’t surprise me if government officials start trying to figure out ways to justify refusing to pay it out to Blagojevich or spouse Patti. Or they may try to find a way to confiscate it before ever giving it to her.

Because, otherwise, Patti Blagojevich will be entitled to that money beginning in another seven years.

SHE CERTAINLY ISN’T going to get rich off of it. But when one is trying to figure out personal finances (and is likely to have to fall back on her father for financial support for the next few years), every potential penny counts.

If anything, this might be the real punishment – the fact that Blagojevich and family goes onto a fixed income not much more than many senior citizens try to struggle on.

Having to wait by the mailbox so that one can snatch up the check and cash it as quickly as possible (while also enduring the fact that likely future Postal Service cuts will cause that check to take longer and longer to arrive).

For we all remember the reports that came out during the trial about the Blagojevich free-spending ways – particularly when it came to clothes and how even on his gubernatorial salary in the low-six figures, the family was in debt from 2002 to 2008.

NO MORE OXXFORD suits or shopping sprees at Saks Fifth Avenue, even when their income really couldn’t justify it to begin with.

It makes me wonder if we ought to compare the Blagojevich saga in one aspect to the cinematic one portrayed by actor Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

That 1990 film ended with Liotta’s character in a federal Witness Protection Program, uttering a line that could easily apply to the real-life former governor in the disappointment he and Patti will feel even after his prison sentence is complete.

“I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”


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